St Athanasius of Alexandria


St Athanasius of Alexandria (d. 373AD) is commemorated in the Church on January 18. He is famous for advocating that Jesus is both fully human and God. Jesus is the Word of God incarnate as a man. By bringing together in His person divinity and humanity, He brings about the salvation of the human race.  Athanasius writes about the human body of Jesus, the God incarnate:

“… the body, as a body, was born and sustained with the food proper to its nature; while God the Word, Who was united with it, was at the same time ordering the universe and revealing Himself through His bodily acts as not man only but God. Those acts are rightly said to be His acts, because the body which did them did indeed belong to Him and none other; moreover, it was right that they should be thus attributed to Him as Man, in order to show that His body was a real one and not merely an appearance.


From such ordinary acts as being born and taking food, He was recognized as being actually present in the body; but by the extraordinary acts which He did through the body He proved himself to be the Son of God. That is the meaning of His words to the unbelieving Jews: ‘If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not; but if I do, even if ye believe not Me, believe My works, that ye may know that the Father is in Me and I in the Father.


Invisible in Himself, He is known from the works of creation; so also when His Godhead is veiled in human nature, His bodily acts still declare him to be not man only, but the Power and Word of God. To speak authoritatively to evil spirits, for instance, and to drive them out, is not human but divine; And who could see Him carrying all the diseases to which mankind is prone, and still deem Him mere man and not also God? He cleansed lepers, He made the lame to walk, He opened the ears of the deaf and the eyes of the blind, there was no sickness or weakness that He did not drive away. Even the most casual observer can see that these were acts of God.”   (ON THE INCARNATION, pp 46-47)


For Athanasius, even more important than people being healed of various diseases and afflictions, Jesus’ healings were allowing the people to see God.